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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-06-23

Athens News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr>

NEWS IN ENGLISH

Athens, Greece, 23/06/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • High-level gov't meeting focuses on eradicating crime
  • Greece in fight against terrorism
  • Diamantopoulou named Greece's new EU Commissioner
  • Simitis leaves for Argentina, Brazil today
  • Contract for French-made Crotale anti-aircraft systems signed
  • Gov't calls G8 initiative on Cyprus 'encouraging'
  • Two forest fires reported under control
  • Niarchos Foundation donates 15 new fire engines
  • Greece ratifies CoE convention on money laundering
  • Athens plans for abused, neglected children's centre
  • OA management concession to parliament
  • EFG Eurobank launches hostile bid for Ergobank
  • Capital markets commission responds to probe order
  • Stocks slump over trading probe
  • Venizelos meets US official for wide-ranging talks
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

High-level gov't meeting focuses on eradicating crime

Illegal immigration, organised crime and terrorism were among the issues examined by Foreign Minister George Papandreou, Public Order Minister Mihalis Chrysohoidis and other public order officials yesterday.

Mr. Chrysohoidis said afterwards that during the meeting issues were discussed concerning border protection and the expulsion of illegal immigrants, while at the same time announcing that his ministry, in cooperation with the foreign ministry, will laun ch an information campaign abroad to emphasise the high level of security found in Greece.

Mr. Chrysohoidis also announced that eight new border detachments will be created and an extensive campaign will begin throughout the country to discover hidden weapons and ammunition.

He also mentioned that US ambassador to Athens Nicholas Burns talked with him and Mr. Papandreou over the phone recently to express his absolute satisfaction over security measures taken by the government for his personal protection.

According to reports, issues of judicial support were also examined during the meeting, in the wake of a recent cooperation agreement between Greece and the US, as well as issues concerning a draft agreement on combatting terrorism, which Mr. Chrysohoidis will sign during his visit to Washington in the autumn.

Greece in fight against terrorism

Deputy Defence Minister Dimitris Apostolakis stressed yesterday that Greece cooperates with all organisations in the fight against terrorism and does not understand the expediency of baseless claims - mainly emanating from Turkey - aimed at questioning this contribution.

He also noted that the elusive phenomenon of terrorism in Greece had clearly smaller dimensions than in other countries.

Mr. Apostolakis, a retired general, made the statement in his opening address to the US-Greek High Level Consultative Committee, which met on the island of Limnos yesterday with the participation of US Assistant Secretary of Defense Franklin Kramer, who led the US delegation.

Mr. Apostolakis also referred to issues of regional security, Greek-Turkish relations and bilateral relations with Washington, with an emphasis on the procurement of weapons systems.

Regarding regional security, he said this required multilateral cooperation between organisations and states.

He reiterated that Greece was claiming a leading role in the reconstruction of the Balkans, and proposing Thessaloniki as the base for the headquarters of the effort. Concerning Greek-Turkish relations, Mr. Apostolakis said the continuous and direct th reat from the neighbouring country (Turkey) forces Greece to spend on arms about double the percentage of its GDP than other European countries.

Regarding debts arising from FMF loans, which as he noted, were not always granted under the best terms, the Greek minister said they were being repaid as scheduled because the Greek economy was strong and able to fully respond to its obligations.

Diamantopoulou named Greece's new EU Commissioner

Prime Minister Costas Simitis has selected Development Deputy Minister Anna Diamantopoulou to represent Greece in the European Commission, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas announced yesterday. Ms Diamantopoulou, who is succeeding Christos Papoutsis, met in Bologna yesterday with Commission President Romano Prodi, with whom Prime Minister Costas Simitis consulted before deciding on her appointment.

Mr. Reppas said that the portfolio she will assume in the EU's top executive body will be decided after Mr. Prodi concludes his round of talks with the members of the new Commission.

The government spokesman also announced that PASOK MP Rodoula Zisi will succeed Deputy National Economy Minister Alekos Baltas, who was elected to the European Parliament. Yiannis Zafeiropoulos, also an MP, will succeed Ms Diamantopoulou.

Ms Diamantopoulou, born in Kozani in 1959, is a civil engineer by training and a Parliament deputy since 1996 when she assumed the post of development deputy minister. She also served as prefect of Kastoria (1985-86) and secretary general of the industry ministry (1994-96). Between 1993-94 she was president of the Hellenic Organisation of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises and Handicrafts (EOMMEX).

She speaks English and German.

Simitis leaves for Argentina, Brazil today

Prime Minister Costas Simitis will leave for Buenos Aires today to attend a two-day Socialist International Council meeting, beginning on Friday, which will be attended by representatives of 139 socialist and social democrat parties from around the world.

The session will focus on the theme of "Shaping the Change", with emphasis placed on the exercising of a more responsible government policy and redetermining human values, among others.

Preparation of the Socialist International's 11th Conference, due to be held in Paris between Nov. 8-10, will also be discussed.

The Greek delegation will also be composed of Press Minister Dimitris Reppas, Alternate Foreign Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis and Eurodeputy Anna Karamanou.

After the session, Mr. Simitis will leave for Rio de Janeiro, where the EU- Latin America summit will take place between June 28-29. He will be accompanied by Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Mr. Reppas.

The summit will focus on issues concerning political cooperation between the EU and Latin America, economic and trade issues and issues concerning education and culture.

Contract for French-made Crotale anti-aircraft systems signed

A defence contract was signed yesterday for the procurement of 11 Crotale short-range anti-aircraft systems for the air force and navy, with a total cost of nearly 82 billion drachmas.

The contract was signed in the presence of National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos by the general director for armaments of the defence ministry, Yiannis Sbokos, and Marc Veron, the representative of Thomson S.A., the French manufacturer of the system.

Offset benefits represent 100 per cent of the procurement cost, while eight Greek defence firms from the private and public sectors will assume subcontracts. During the next six months, four ready-to-deploy second-hand Crotale will be delivered to Greece, while the new systems will begin arriving in the 22nd month following commencement of the contract, with delivery having been completed by the 30th month.

The Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defence (KYSEA) gave its final approval for the procurement in mid-February.

Gov't calls G8 initiative on Cyprus 'encouraging'

Greece yesterday welcomed the G8's intention to involve itself in the Cyprus issue as an "encoura-ging" move.

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said the international community's activity could bring a solution to the issue, provided all initiatives operated within the framework of United Nations decisions.

The Group of Seven leading industrial nations plus Russia, in a statement on Cyprus last Sunday, urged the United Nations Secretary General to invite the leaders of the two communities on the island republic for talks in the fall of 1999, without precon ditions.

Last week, Cyprus said it was ready to enter talks without preconditions with the Turkish Cypriot community to achieve a deal with Turkish Cypriots.

But Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit condemned a call by the G8 for an unconditional resumption of peace talks on Cyprus, saying outside intervention could lead to ethnic conflict on the island.

Mr. Reppas called the Turkish stance on the issue "negative" and noted that Ankara "wants to keep Cyprus hostage".

"I hope the international community will not tolerate this situation," he said.

"If Turkey does not respond to these initiatives, it will be a country that moves outside the realm of international legality."

He stressed again that all activity had to move within the framework of the UN Security Council decisions.

Two forest fires reported under control

A forest fire was finally extinguished yesterday near Nea Makri, eastern Attica, but not before it destroyed part of an ever-decreasing pine forest.

Police arrested four men on charges of accidentally setting the fire at around 3 p.m., as they were using welding equipment without taking the necessary preventative measures.

Meanwhile, a forest fire raging near the village of Lykohia, Arcadia prefecture, since Sunday afternoon was finally placed under control yesterday. The blaze destroyed dozens of acres of fir trees and a large area of scrubland.

Niarchos Foundation donates 15 new fire engines

The Stavros Niarchos Foundation has donated 15 new fire-fighting engines to the fire brigade to help combat the phenomenon of forest fires that plague Greece every summer.

The 15 French-made vehicles cost more than 650 million drachmas, and are capable of tackling all kinds of fires. They are also ideal for fighting forest fires as their technical characteristics enable them to travel over rough terrain.

Greece ratifies CoE convention on money laundering

Greece yesterday ratified the Council of Europe's (CoE) convention on "money laundering, seizure and confiscation of the proceeds from crime".

Greece's permanent representative delivered the ratification papers to CoE Secretary General Daniel Tarschys.

According to the convention, which will enter into effect by Oct. 1, Greece is obliged to change applicable legislation in compliance with this convention, which aims at countering money laundering from criminal activities, including arms dealing, terrorism, fraud and especially drug trafficking.

The pact is intended to improve international cooperation between CoE member-states and third countries, such as the US, Canada and Australia.

Athens plans for abused, neglected children's centre

Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos yesterday announced plans to establish a shelter for abused and neglected children, the first such centre in Greece.

"The Athens Municipal Child Care Centre...is expanding its role to other areas of child care and protection with the establishment of the shelter for battered and neglected children," Mr. Avramopoulos told a news conference.

"The increasing incidences of child abuse is causing concern and I fear that this is due to new social conditions as well as multiple difficulties in major urban centres."

The shelter will provide temporary accommodation and support for children and will operate in tandem with a counselling service for families with social problems and families with children with special needs.

The counselling service will also work closely with other groups to provide information on aspects of the phenomenon to parents, the media and other groups.

Children will be accommodated at shelters, the first of which is ready to begin operating in the Polygono area, for up to three months.

After three months, the mayor said, the children will be reincorporated into the family or elsewhere.

"What we are doing today is innovative and very progressive and we want to believe that this programme will receive state support as well as European support," Mr. Avramopoulos said.

He said a proposal for funding will be submitted to the European Commission.

More information on the shelter and the programme can be found on 883-0728, 882-1254 or 883-8375.

OA management concession to parliament

A concession due to be awarded to a foreign operator to manage Olympic Airways is contained in a bill that is scheduled for a parliamentary vote on June 24. Debate on the bill began last night.

The bill, which contains the clause on Olympic, was submitted to parliament by the national economy ministry.

According to sources, the management of OA is expected to go to Speedwing, a subsidiary of British Airways.

The terms of the deal contain an option for British Airways to acquire a maximum 20 percent stake in the ailing national airline.

EFG Eurobank launches hostile bid for Ergobank

Consolidated Eurofinance Holdings, the parent company of EFG Eurobank, has launched its offer to shareholders of Ergobank in the country's first hostile takeover bid.

The 30-day share offer was launched on Monday following approval by the bourse of its terms.

Ergobank's management had cautioned shareholders to avoid rashly accepting the deal, which it believed was not beneficial due to newly listed EFG Eurobank's brief track record on the bourse.

It said it would study the terms of the deal, and alternatives, with an international consultant.

But Eurobank left no time gap after securing the bourse's approval.

Ergobank's shareholders were offered 110 shares in EFG Eurobank plus 200, 000 drachmas in cash for every 50 shares held in Ergobank.

EFG Eurobank's executives told a news conference that it believed the offer would benefit Ergobank's shareholders.

Capital markets commission responds to probe order

The capital markets commission said in a statement yesterday that numerous measures were in place to monitor the workings of the bourse, responding to the start of a probe into allegations of illegal trading.

The probe was ordered on Monday by a public prosecutor.

The commission said that stringent measures implemented in the past two years had curbed irregularities, depite a massive rise in transactions.

In addition, the commission had worked hard to monitor the market and listed companies, suspending stocks and imposing fines, the statement said.

Stocks slump over trading probe

Equity prices ended substantially lower yesterday hit by news that the public prosecutor of a first instance court had ordered a probe into alleged illegal trading on the bourse.

The general index ended 1.28 percent down at 3,950.62 points, reflecting losses in blue chip stocks. Turnover was 161.234 billion drachmas with 31, 257,639 shares changing hands.

Sector indices ended as follows: Banks (-2.30 pct), Leasing (+4.08 pct), Insurance (-1.63 pct), Investment (+0.86 pct), Construction (-0.77 pct), Industrials (-0.52 pct), Miscellaneous (+0.08 pct) and Holding (+0.85 pct).

The parallel market index for smaller capitalisation stocks surged 1.02 percent while the FTSE/ASE 20 index for heavily traded stocks and blue chips fell 1.83 percent to 2,318.48 points.

Broadly, decliners led advancers by 149 to 138 with another 13 issues unchanged.

Venizelos meets US official for wide-ranging talks

Development Minister Evangelos Venizelos yesterday met visiting US Undersecretary of Commerce for International Trade, David Aaron, and discussed plans for reconstruction in the Balkans, new developments in the energy sector on a national, Balkan and European level, and participation by US companies in projects for the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.

The two officials also discussed the likely establishment of an American commercial representation in Thessaloniki, a forthcoming World Trade Organisation meeting, and co-hosting a conference on the tourism market early in Athens in December.

Mr. Venizelos later met the Czech Republic's vice-president responsible for economic affairs, Pavel Mertlik. The two discussed issues regarding energy, industry, trade and tourism.

WEATHER

Mostly fair weather will prevail throughout Greece on Wednesday with the possibility of showers in the morning in Thrace and the islands of the northern and eastern Aegean Sea.

Winds will be northwesterly, strong to gale force. Mostly fair in Athens where temperatures will range between 22-30C. Similar weather in Thessaloniki where temperatures will be from 17-26C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Wednesday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          311.339
Pound sterling       494.353
Japanese yen (100)   256.283
French franc          49.092
German mark          164.648
Italian lira (100)    16.631
Irish Punt           408.885
Belgian franc          7.983
Finnish mark          54.160
Dutch guilder        146.128
Danish kr.            43.325
Austrian sch.         23.402
Spanish peseta         1.935
Swedish kr.           37.087
Norwegian kr.         39.779
Swiss franc          201.763
Port. Escudo           1.606
Can. dollar          211.395
Aus. dollar          202.740
Cyprus pound         558.119
Euro                 322.023
(L.G.)
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